WALLINGFORD — Fire Chief Richard Heidgerd will retire after 33½ years with the service, the department announced on Friday.
Heidgerd’s last day will be on April 9. His replacement will likely be named next week. Heidgerd is retiring now because he feels the time is right, said Lieutenant Jeff Dingler, the department’s spokesperson.
“I think he was planning to retire at some point of this year all along,” Dingler said Friday.
Heidgerd leaves amid a period of change within the department.
In July, the department began running three firefighter-paramedics on the day shift instead of five, with two daytime ambulances staffed with two emergency medical technicians each, instead of two paramedics. Under the new system, when advanced life support is needed, a paramedic now longer leaves firefighting duties to provide emergency medical services, which would leave that engine company short a firefighter.
In December, Heidgerd told the Town Council that his department needed $650,000 to cover a projected budgetary gap due to personnel shortfalls and overtime. Councilors approved an initial transfer of $167,236 — $159,000 from contingency accounts and $8,236 from the fire tax abatement fund.
Heidgerd will be missed for his honesty and straightforward approach to his work, Dingler said.
“He has always been a straightforward guy,” Dingler said. “He is an open book. He is a firefighter’s firefighter. He came up through the ranks. It is an advantage knowing the dynamics you have, the men you have.”
Heidgerd began his career with the Wallingford Fire Department in August 1987. He made lieutenant in August 1994. He was promoted to captain, where he led a shift of firefighters and paramedics, in March 2002. Heidgerd was named deputy chief in November 2006, where he served for more than seven years before making chief in July 2014.